Ninth seed Garbine Muguruza battled past returning veteran Kim Clijsters in their opening-round match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship on Monday. The Spaniard won 6-2, 7-6(6) in one hour and 37 minutes in what was touted to be a promising match, despite some 11th hour shuffling of the draw after Kiki Bertens’ withdrawal from the tournament.
Despite the result going Muguruza’s way, the match was about gauging where the Belgian’s level was at after nearly eight years of absence from the Tour since her second retirement in 2012. The 36-year-old started off slowly, tripping to an early break in the opening set to her younger opponent but the flashes of her customary game emerged.
These were infrequent at first – in the opening set – as she quickly lost it but as the match progressed, she put Muguruza through her paces. The 2020 Australian Open finalist capitalised on her fellow former world no.
1’s wayward game to go up two breaks of serve in the second set. However, Clijsters pegged her back to level the set at four-all before pushing it all the way to the tie-break. In the tie-break, Muguruza’s shanked shot saw one match point dissolve but on the second, she made no mistakes to capture a straight-sets win.
Clijsters’ comeback trip may have been curtailed in her first event but the four-time Major champion showed that her competitiveness and tactical strength had not faded away with time. She did have trouble with her serves – with 10 double faults – but she validated her decision to try and give it one more go on the professional circuit with aplomb.
Meanwhile, Muguruza awaits the winner between Viktoria Kudermetova and Dayana Yastremska in the second round. Photo Credit: We Are Tennis Twitter